Dr. Selina Passante-Watt traded in the cold winters of Canada for the sunny shores of South Florida and joined the practice at Palm Beach Equine Clinic in the fall of 2013. A veterinarian at just 32 years of age, Dr. Passante-Watt enjoys the team-oriented aspect and vast resources that working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers. She now splits her time between winters working at Palm Beach Equine Clinic and running a mobile practice with her husband in Western Canada during the summers.

Get to Know Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Selina Passante-Watt

“There are a lot of specialists and very intelligent people at that practice, so the continual learning is incredibly valuable, especially as a young vet,” she acknowledged. “I learn every day. It is an amazing experience to be able to walk down the hall and knock on the door of one of the best board-certified surgeons or other specialist and say, ‘Hey, can you help me with this?’ You do not realize how beneficial that is until you leave, and you are in the middle of Western Canada and you wish that you had that.”

Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Dr. Passante-Watt graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, SK, in June 2012. After graduation, she moved west to Calgary, Alberta, and completed an internship in equine medicine and surgery at Moore Equine Veterinary Centre. She and her husband, who is also an equine veterinarian, relocated to South Florida in July of 2013 in order to pursue their equine veterinary careers.

Dr. Passante-Watt started riding when she was 10 years old and was a typical horse-crazy child. She took western riding lessons for a few years before falling in love with polo. When she was in high school, she got a job grooming and exercising polo horses in Winnipeg, which continued for six summers.

After high school, Dr. Passante-Watt was unsure what career path she wanted to take, so she embarked on a backpacking trip in Australia. She picked up small jobs while traveling, one being picking mangos. While on that mango farm, she found a small dog that was wounded from a fight with another dog. Dr. Passante-Watt took the dog, fixed his wounds, and nursed him back to health. It was that experience that inspired her to apply to veterinary school.

While attending vet school in Saskatoon, Dr. Passante-Watt met her husband, Dr. Walker Watt, and the pair got married in October of 2013. During his fourth year of vet school, Dr. Watt attended a conference and met some veterinarians from Teigland, Franklin, and Brokken, a racetrack practice at Gulfstream Park in Florida. He went to visit and did an externship there, later receiving a job offer. Dr. Watt and Dr. Passante-Watt then made the decision to move to Florida, where Dr. Watt took the racetrack job, and Dr. Passante-Watt found a position at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

“Palm Beach Equine Clinic is a great practice,” Dr. Passante-Watt stated. “I have been working with Dr. Jorge Gomez, who works mainly on sport horses and more specifically on show jumpers, so it has been great getting involved in that world and receiving mentorship from Dr. Gomez. There is a lot of sport horse medicine that we do not see back home in Canada. It is a different world in Wellington; everything is a step ahead.”

The first year Dr. Passante-Watt and her husband moved to Florida, they stayed and worked for the full year. They then decided to split their time between the U.S. and Canada, just traveling to Florida for the winter season. They opened their own mobile practice in Western Canada, which Dr. Watt now runs year-round while his wife soaks up everything she can learn in Wellington throughout the winter.

“There is a lack of equine veterinarians in Southern Alberta where we live,” Dr. Passante-Watt explained. “There are a lot of mixed animal practitioners, but not a lot of specific equine practitioners, let alone in performance horses. That is why we decided to open a practice and just work on horses, and it has been going really well so far.”

Dr. Passante-Watt enjoys being able to draw on the resources of Palm Beach Equine Clinic even when she’s in Canada for the summer. “You can easily email people, send images, and pick up the phone and call someone with questions,” Dr. Passante-Watt stated. “I find everyone at Palm Beach Equine Clinic to be very helpful. As a vet early in my career, I think it is a great thing to work in a practice like that because it definitely pushes you to learn and be your best because you are working with the best.”

Having a state-of-the-art facility and equipment at Palm Beach Equine Clinic at her disposal throughout the winter is also a huge advantage.

“It is an amazing difference,” Dr. Passante-Watt noted. “I see both sides of it, because I am in Canada in the summer in my own small mobile practice with no bells and whistles, and then I come down to Palm Beach Equine Clinic and you have everything you could want at your fingertips. Every sort of pharmaceutical need, every tool, every cutting-edge technology, they just have it all right here. For the hospital, there are technicians and interns to monitor your cases overnight, and the 24-hour Intensive Care Unit is state-of-the-art. It is definitely set up to be successful, and with so many veterinarians, everyone is great about helping one another.”

Dr. Passante-Watt has many different veterinary interests, including diagnostic imaging, ophthalmology, lameness, dentistry and internal medicine. She really enjoys general practice, specializing in a little bit of everything. She is also certified in acupuncture and equine chiropractic from Options for Animals Chiropractic School.

As far as future goals, Dr. Passante-Watt plans to take it year by year, continuing to come to Palm Beach Equine Clinic in the winters, continuing to learn, and being the best veterinarian that she can be.

It’s no secret that in nearly any medical condition, early diagnosis can lead to a better prognosis – and colitis in horses is no exception. The inflammation of the colon that defines colitis can be fatal, although fortunately, with the proper detection of symptoms and immediate treatment, a positive outcome and recovery far outweigh a negative ending.

fluid therapy palm beach equine clinic hospital
Fluid therapy is typically necessary for equine colitis cases.

Understanding colitis – the symptoms, diagnostics, and treatment— can help in recognizing the condition. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Selina Watt has helped provide some fundamental information that horse owners and barn managers should be aware of in regards to equine colitis.

Understanding Colitis and Its Causes

Located in the equine hindgut is the large colon, where microbial digestion and water absorption occurs. The large colon averages 12 feet in length and can hold approximately 20 gallons of feed material and water. When the colon becomes inflamed, the horse is diagnosed with colitis.

While the general definition of colitis is simple and straightforward, the causes can be broader. However, two of the most prevalent causes of colitis are bacterial infections or overuse of medication. Colitis from infectious bacteria is often caused by agents such as Salmonella, Clostridium difficile, or Neorickettsia risticii (Potomac Horse Fever). The non-infectious, right dorsal colitis is often related to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone (Bute).

No matter the cause, each form of colitis leads to a similar inflammation of the large colon. The inflamed colon causes the horse to have diarrhea, as the colon is unable to properly perform its job of adequately absorbing water, electrolytes, and nutrients from the intestinal content. As the condition progresses, leaky membranes of the colon may cause a release of toxins into the bloodstream and the horse will suffer a loss in protein levels. This condition can ultimately affect the entire body as bacteria and toxins circulate, potentially leading to laminitis, founder, protein deficiencies, and a greater risk of complications or lack of a full recovery.

Symptoms and Diagnostics

The first and most conspicuous symptom of colitis is diarrhea. If diarrhea persists, horses can begin to show signs of dehydration and protein loss due to the volume of fluids and nutrients being excreted. Keeping a watchful eye on the consistency of your horse’s manure can be key to catching this condition early. Fever or a lack of energy or appetite may be indicators of colitis and it is recommended to not wait to see what develops but to rather contact a knowledgeable veterinarian for proper diagnostics right away.

Blood testing at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic laboratory.

Once the horse is under the care of a veterinarian, one of the first things that should be done is bloodwork. In the case of colitis, bloodwork will show decreased white blood cells and protein levels. The severity of the results will indicate how advanced or severe the condition may be. The horse will also generally present with an elevated temperature, and a diagnostic abdominal ultrasound will likely show thickening of the intestinal wall.

Following the initial diagnosis of colitis, a fecal sample is sent to a laboratory where it is tested and analyzed for various forms of bacteria. Comprehensive laboratory results will determine whether the colitis case is infectious or non-infectious. Non-infectious cases can also be diagnosed based on the horse’s history, such as if the horse has been administered Bute for a prolonged period of time.

Treatment and Prognosis

Horses affected by colitis generally require hospital admittance, as they will need fluid therapy and gastro protectants to aid the intestinal wall. If the colitis is caused by infectious bacteria, the patient will also require antibiotic treatment and proper biosecurity measures to prevent transmission. If the bloodwork indicates low protein levels, plasma therapy may also be necessary.

At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the intensive care management team consists of veterinarians and hospital staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Equine colitis cases cannot simply be administered fluids and left to improve, instead, they require careful monitoring around the clock. If the veterinarian feels the colitis case is severe, the horse may need hourly assessments. This can be of the utmost importance, as colitis cases often rapidly deteriorate without proper veterinary monitoring and swift care.

palm beach equine clinic hospital barn aisle
The Equine Hospital at Palm Beach Equine Clinic is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is no guaranteed prevention plan for colitis, however, careful management of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and optimal nutrition can help minimize a horse’s risks of developing the non-infectious colitis condition. With early detection, diagnosis, and proper treatment, equine colitis patients present a positive prognosis.

To ensure the health of your horse, the veterinary team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic is available 24/7. Speak with a Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian regarding the proper medication and nutritional needs of your unique horse by calling 561-793-1599.